4/12/07

That's No Moon. It's a Military Outpost.

Writers, Directors Fear 'Sci-Fi' Label Like an Attack From Mars - Wired.com

Imagine if George Lucas were afraid of the label "Sci-Fi," as some think he should have been. His ideas came directly from the comic books and trashy serials of his childhood and he wasn't afraid to admit it. Darth Vader was half-machine, they traveled through space in huge ships, they used hyperspace drive, they used technologically advanced weaponry and they called things by their name: "Space Station," "Laser Blaster," "Star Destroyer," and various unpronounceable alien creature names.

Today people are afraid of "Sci-Fi." Why? Well, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is canceled, so they can't be afraid of ending up on there. But maybe MST3K did play a small part. They showed all the worst of science fiction and made fun of it. I personally loved the show. Fantastic humor. But that's a side note. The point is that during the MST3K era, all these fantastically bad sci-fi movies came to the forefront of popular culture and became sci-fi's icon. Forget about Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov and Frank Herbert; sci-fi quickly became all about swarthy captains, laser beams, and space ships. The "sci" had overruled the "fi." Technology was overplayed and it overshadowed what was supposed to be the real story - the haunting parallels to today's life, the complicated character relationships, every basic element that made a fiction story good. These good elements didn't necessarily exist in the movies displayed in the pop-culture phenomenon that MST3K had become, therefore sci-fi was branded.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't blame MST3K. Not at all. Anyone who got this impression about sci-fi from Joel Robinson, Mike Nelson or their robot pals likely didn't fully understand and appreciate the show itself. And that's understandable - a lot of people didn't understand the show. That's partly why it's not on anymore. But, again, that's beside the point of this post.

The point is that now authors, directors and writers are going around saying "No! My story isn't sci-fi! It's . . . it's . . . 'Fleshed-out Reality' - it's 'post-apocalyptic' . . . yeah . . . yeah, that sounds good." But who are they kidding? Becky, despite all her otherwise wonderful qualities, is a sci-fi hater. And she can spot them a mile away, no matter what they try to call them. I've been trying to get her forever to watch Battlestar Galactica (the new one) and she just can't get past the fact that they're traveling through space and fighting robots. She likes Heroes, though - that's a step in the right direction. I had a roommate who was the kind who was more into thrillers and sports dramas. We saw a commercial for Children of Men, another desperate attempt to drop the sci-fi label, I mentioned how excited I was to see it and he said "That just doesn't look like something that would interest me." The point is sci-fi is sci-fi no matter what you try to name it. If people like it, they'll like it - if they hate it, they'll hate it.

This literary problem can be easily summed up by one of the greatest literary minds ever - William Shakespeare. "What's in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." Call a sci-fi story what you must, but if it stinks of super-normal technology people will still smell it. If a military outpost can be mistaken for a moon, it's probably sci-fi. [Cue Jeff Foxworthy.]